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Old 12-23-2009, 03:54 PM   #1
zelda_pinwheel
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E-books in physical bookstores, even without internet

There have been many discussions here about how physical bookshops can embrace ebooks. One idea is the sale of ebooks directly in stores, regardless whether the shop has an internet presence or not. Now, 440 French bookshops propose exactly that, offering ebooks by 4 publishers (so far) thanks to ePagine. Currently, the participating publishers are : Eyrolles, L'Éclat, Ravet-Anceau and La Découverte/SLF (Editis Group). According to Stéphane Michalon, ePagine's Director, interviewed by ActuaLitté,

Quote:
"Payment is made directly at the register, and the client then receives an email with a link to download the ebook they've purchased. No need for a website, everything is handled by the application we have created."
Note that this solution only concerns the purchase of the ebook ; an internet connection is still necessary to download the actual file, either from home or perhaps directly in the shop, if the customer happens to be equipped with their portable computer / usb cable, and can use a wifi connection, both because currently most devices don't have wireless connectivity, and due to the limitations of drm (when relevant ; Eyrolles sells DRM-free).

Although only 4 publishers are involved for the moment, ePagine has agreements with far more publishers to sell ebooks online via their system allowing physical shops to easily create an online shop to sell ebooks, already in place. So it seems likely that the offer will quickly be increased.

The main benefit of the system is obvious ; by proposing a way for booksellers to sell ebooks even without having to build and manage a website, ePagine's system encourages them to embrace the evolution of their industry and the new tools available to them, to remain relevant in the face of an increasingly digital age. Given the reluctance of many publishers to adopt ebooks, this can only be seen as a good thing.

And I have to say ; when I went two days ago to my neighborhood bookshop to buy a gift for a friend and discovered a previously unpublished book by Boris Vian which I couldn't resist buying for myself, I really would have loved to be able to pay for it at the register and download the digital version at home, rather than buy yet another paper book, as I had promised myself I wouldn't anymore !

So what do you think ? How would you like to go browse the selection at your neighborhood bookshop, discuss favourite authors with the bookseller, and then buy the digital editions directly there ?

Read the full article on ActuaLitté.com (in french). Thanks to Nate the Great for spotting it.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:18 PM   #2
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They're completely missing the right way to do this. They should have a download kiosk in the store, either connecting to the website or transferring the book from its own local hard drive.

I go to brick and mortar stores for instant take-it-home gratification or need. This does zero for me. It takes an extra 60 seconds or so to place the buy order on a PC from an on-line vendor you already use (e.g. Amazon) if you already have to be hooked up for a download.

I don't get the appeal of this transaction aside from gift giving and people who are uber-paranoid about their credit card info on the web (pay cash at store).
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:28 PM   #3
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They're completely missing the right way to do this. They should have a download kiosk in the store, either connecting to the website or transferring the book from its own local hard drive.

I go to brick and mortar stores for instant take-it-home gratification or need. This does zero for me. It takes an extra 60 seconds or so to place the buy order on a PC from an on-line vendor you already use (e.g. Amazon) if you already have to be hooked up for a download.

I don't get the appeal of this transaction aside from gift giving and people who are uber-paranoid about their credit card info on the web (pay cash at store).
well, i think you have a point that it's certainly not for everyone. but i do see two interesting immediate benefits :

1. for the client (say, me, for instance, since i understand not everyone feels the same way), what i like about going to my neighborhood bookshop is the friendly ambiance and the discussions with my very nice and knowledgeable bookshop owner. but i don't go there very often any more because i try not to buy any more paper books, and to be honest i miss it (i really enjoyed wandering around and discussing books two days ago when i went in to buy a book as a christmas gift for a friend). so i would *love* to be able to preserve the "bookshop experience" without weighing myself down with more paper books. and i am sure that technology will rapidly advance to the point where we won't have to wait for the second step of going home to download our purchase, because there will be a way to get the file directly in the shop.

2. for the booksellers, particularly small, independent ones, it's a really easy way to start selling ebooks, without the expense and potential hassle of setting up / managing a website (which they might not know how or want to do), and it gives them a way to stay relevant even in a context of more and more digital media.

to be honest, it reminds me of this short speculative film which personally seems like the best of all worlds to me (i found a version which has added english subtitles, so i'm posting that one, but watch out, the first minute or so is blank, the film starts after that) :

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Old 12-23-2009, 04:35 PM   #4
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I go to bookstores mostly to browse and usually spend hours at it. Right now, I make a list of the books I'm interested in and go home and (usually) find that 90% are still not available at the online store from my ebook reader vendor (it starts with an 'S' and ends in a 'Why?'). So I'd love to be able to find out while I'm still in the store even if I can't download the books while I'm still in the store.
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Old 12-23-2009, 04:56 PM   #5
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Zelda, I think that the customer should be able to carry her/his liseuse in with them and be able to plug in with the mini usb and load the purchase right there. If the publishers were smart, they'd set up the download hub in the various bookstores.

Why?

No returns, immediate payment for a sale, (credit both the store and the publisher at the same time), and control over the access point. They could put flashy LCD's for current pushed titles, and access to their back catalog as well, without worrying about inventory costs.

I guess it would make too much sense....(Sigh)
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Old 12-23-2009, 05:27 PM   #6
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Going to a physical store to buy a digital product is about as pointless as it gets, especially as more and more reading devices go wireless.

I mean, really. Should we stop getting mail delivered to our homes, and pick it all up at the post office, just to keep the branches in business?

Bookstores may have social value, but gimmicks like this are not going to save them.
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Old 12-23-2009, 05:37 PM   #7
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I don't see much future (or sense) in that. Why bother walking / driving / riding the subway to the nearest bookshop with a nice, friendly, chatty owner (avoiding the one with a tightass moron owner, that happens, sigh, to be closer, and the impersonal megabookstore that is closer, too) when you can do it faster & easier without leaving your living-room? and as freezing cold as it's been this week!
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Old 12-23-2009, 05:46 PM   #8
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I have to agree it seems rather pointless to many of us. I prefer to buy online and download. Here in the States, at least where I live, there are no bookstores within walking distance. It is much more "green" to download from the internet than to drive several miles to a bookstore that has even less of a selection than I can find online. There is an appeal to browsing a brick and mortar bookstore, but I rarely buy printed books any more.
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Old 12-23-2009, 05:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zelda_pinwheel View Post
And I have to say ; when I went two days ago to my neighborhood bookshop to buy a gift for a friend and discovered a previously unpublished book by Boris Vian which I couldn't resist buying for myself, I really would have loved to be able to pay for it at the register and download the digital version at home, rather than buy yet another paper book, as I had promised myself I wouldn't anymore !

So what do you think ? How would you like to go browse the selection at your neighborhood bookshop, discuss favourite authors with the bookseller, and then buy the digital editions directly there ?

Read the full article on ActuaLitté.com (in french). Thanks to Nate the Great for spotting it.
Now, that's an interesting twist. Essentially, printed editions are used to boost sales of digital editions. Baen, Doctorow and others, up until recently(if they ever gave up on the idea), tried to use ebooks to sell pbooks.

I am skeptical, though. The model is cumbersome, payment is done in store (why not online, if I am going to download the title anyway), then ebook is retrieved from the Net.

They should try to pack ebooks on (very small, hence very cheap) SD's and sell those. Or be ready to put the title on customer's SD, upon payment. For the concept to work, delivery of the sold goods has to be instantaneous.
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Old 12-23-2009, 05:54 PM   #10
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I don't see much future (or sense) in that. Why bother walking / driving / riding the subway to the nearest bookshop
I think it's awesome! I miss going to bookstores and coming home with something! I like the idea of browsing books and having the option to purchase the ebook version right there in the store! Browsing for books via online bookstores using their search capabilities can be so frustrating and seldom have I actually gotten to preview the book first!

I mentioned some time ago that a company called Symtio is doing this for Christian bookstores in the US.

Like someone else mentioned, having the kiosk or a way to download the book right there in the store, would be the icing on the cake!
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Sir Edward View Post
Zelda, I think that the customer should be able to carry her/his liseuse in with them and be able to plug in with the mini usb and load the purchase right there. If the publishers were smart, they'd set up the download hub in the various bookstores.

Why?

No returns, immediate payment for a sale, (credit both the store and the publisher at the same time), and control over the access point. They could put flashy LCD's for current pushed titles, and access to their back catalog as well, without worrying about inventory costs.

I guess it would make too much sense....(Sigh)
to be honest, i agree that would make much more sense, and actually i would not be at all suprised if the technology evolved quite rapidly to permit precisely that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jswinden View Post
I have to agree it seems rather pointless to many of us. I prefer to buy online and download. Here in the States, at least where I live, there are no bookstores within walking distance. It is much more "green" to download from the internet than to drive several miles to a bookstore that has even less of a selection than I can find online.
certainly this is not a solution that will appeal to everyone. and i see no reason why it should have to ; it is in no way a replacement for online bookshops, and there's no reason why people who prefer to shop there should be forced to stop. to be honest i get the impression, from some of these posts, that there is a cultural difference at play as well ; here, particularly in paris but even in smaller regional towns, bookshops are a beloved institution and an important part of neighborhood life. i don't live in a particularly central neighborhood but the one i usually go to is about a 2 minute walk from my house, i've never seen it empty, and there are probably about 5 or 10 more within a 10 minute radius (seriously, they're all over the place, new and used ones). someone recently told me about a small village whose residents all banded together to save the bookshop and keep it in business with money out of their own pockets, that's how important it was to them. on the other hand, i get the impression that since most of the US is much less densely populated, many people there don't have the equivalent of a "local" bookshop and since they would have to drive a significant distance to get to one which may or may not have a decent selection of books they're interested in, shopping online is something of a lifesaver both for convenience and selection. i can understand why from that perspective this would seem rather pointless.

Quote:
There is an appeal to browsing a brick and mortar bookstore, but I rarely buy printed books any more.
precisely my point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebarnmom View Post
I think it's awesome! I miss going to bookstores and coming home with something! I like the idea of browsing books and having the option to purchase the ebook version right there in the store! Browsing for books via online bookstores using their search capabilities can be so frustrating and seldom have I actually gotten to preview the book first!

I mentioned some time ago that a company called Symtio is doing this for Christian bookstores in the US.

Like someone else mentioned, having the kiosk or a way to download the book right there in the store, would be the icing on the cake!
...and here we see an example of why this might not be such a completely pointless idea after all. and i agree ; it would be great to improve the system so you could get your book right away, as well. hopefully that will happen in the not too distant future.
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:19 PM   #12
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Sorry, as much as i love a good mom & pop bookstore (serious) i am still not convinced. the whole experience could be frustrating because the paper books they would have on the shelves and the e-Books available for download would be two very different sets of titles. So you are looking around and find a book you want and go to the checkout and "oops, sorry, we don't have an e-Book for that one, try another one" , and again, and again, and after 30 times you finally find one that is 1) a printed book, 2)in stock at that particular store and 3) available in electronic format (and 3.b) for your e-reader of choice).

Not that i wouldn't be a good idea for a coffee shop, though.
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:23 PM   #13
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Ok here's my 02¢.

I think very few people will go to the store if they don't have to. As much as it seem cozy to go to the book store... you can get that same social aspect online... for example here. We have many threads about books and authors which help people discover new stuff.

So, while it sounds like a good idea I think practically it won't be able to sustain a brick and mortar store.

BOb
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:30 PM   #14
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In my mind, I'm picturing a hard card with front cover pic and any pertinent info, bar-coded to take up to the cashier. So if the card is there, the ebook is available. Or a sticker on the actual book saying "this book is available in ebook format". Or a slip attached to the shelf that you pull out of an envelope to take up to the cashier, like they do in some stores, when the item is too big to stock on the shelf anything more than the display model.
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Old 12-23-2009, 06:36 PM   #15
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imo it's the only way for physical bookstores to survive. They need to become a place where we browse physical copies of the books (they stock 1-2 print demo copies) and we buy the ebook in-store.

They would also need to have cheap coffee in the shop, comfortable chairs etc etc. So you go in, meet friends there, grab a coffee read a chapter of a book then buy the ebook. It needs to offer more value than physical bookstores currently offer.
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